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Authors: Henry James

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The Bostonians

BOOK: The Bostonians
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Table of Contents



Title Page

Copyright Page

Henry James

The World of Henry James and The Bostonians


A Note on the Text














































Inspired by Henry James and The Bostonians

Comments & Questions

For Further Reading

From the Pages of

The Bostonians

“I pretend not to prevaricate.” (page 3)

“A radical? She’s a female Jacobin—she’s a nihilist. Whatever is, is wrong, and all that sort of thing. If you are going to dine with her, you had better know it.” (page 5)

She was heroic, she was sublime, the whole moral history of Boston was reflected in her displaced spectacles; but it was a part of her originality, as it were, that she was deliciously provincial.

(page 32)

Miss Chancellor would have been much happier if the movements she was interested in could have been carried on only by the people she liked, and if revolutions, somehow, didn’t always have to begin with one’s self—with internal convulsions, sacrifices, executions. A common end, unfortunately, however fine as regards a special result, does not make community impersonal. (pages 104-105)

There were so many things that she hadn’t yet learned to dislike, in spite of her friend’s earnest efforts to teach her. (page 113)

Though she had grown up among people who took for granted all sorts of queer laxities, she had kept the consummate innocence of the American girl, that innocence which was the greatest of all, for it had survived the abolition of walls and locks. (pages 113-114)

Olive had a standing quarrel with the levity, the good-nature, of the judgments of the day; many of them seemed to her weak to imbecility, losing sight of all measures and standards, lavishing superlatives, delighted to be fooled. The age seemed to her relaxed and demoralised, and I believe she looked to the influx of the great feminine element to make it feel and speak more sharply. (page 118)

Civilisation, under such an influence, in such a setting, appeared to have done its work; harmony ruled the scene; human life ceased to be a battle. She went so far as to ask herself why one should have a quarrel with it; the relations of men and women, in that picturesque grouping, had not the air of being internecine. (page 143)

It came home to him that his opinions were stiff, whereas in comparison his effort was lax; and he accordingly began to wonder whether he might not make a living by his opinions. (page 175)

There was such a risk that a slim provincial girl, pretending to fascinate a couple of hundred
New Yorkers by simply giving them her ideas, would fail of her effect, that at the end of a few moments Basil Ransom became aware that he was watching her in very much the same excited way as if she had been performing, high above his head, on the trapeze. (page 244)


“The whole generation is womanised; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities, which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and the most pretentious that has ever been. The masculine character, the ability to dare and endure, to know and yet not fear reality, to look the world in the face and take it for what it is—a very queer and partly very base mixture—that is what I want to preserve, or rather, as I may say, to recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt!” (page 310)

“Think how delightful it will be when your influence becomes really social.” (page 359)

“The city of Boston be damned!” (page 407)

But though she was glad, he presently discovered that, beneath her hood, she was in tears. It is to be feared that with the union, so far from brilliant, into which she was about to enter, these were not the last she was destined to shed. (page 414)

Published by Barnes & Noble Books

122 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10011


The Bostonians
was initially serialized in
The Century Magazine
between 1885 and 1886, and published in volume form in 1886.


Published in 2005 by Barnes & Noble Classics with new Introduction,

Notes, Biography, Chronology, A Note on the Text, Inspired By,

Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading.


Introduction Copyright © 2005 by Siri Hustvedt.


Note on Henry James, A Note on the Text, Notes, The World of Henry James
The Bostonians,
Inspired by Henry James,

Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading

Copyright @ 2005 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and
retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


Barnes & Noble Classics and the Barnes & Noble Classics colophon are
trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc.


The Bostonians

ISBN-13: 978-1-59308-297-0 ISBN-10: 1-59308-297-5

eISBN : 978-1-411-43185-0

LC Control Number 2004115252


Produced and published in conjunction with:

Fine Creative Media, Inc.

322 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10001


Michael J. Fine, President and Publisher


Printed in the United States of America


3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Henry James

The writer Henry James was born into a wealthy family in New York City in 1843. His father, Henry, Sr., was a religious freethinker and follower of the philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg and associated with many of the literary men of his day, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Young Henry was educated privately in New York, Geneva, Paris, and London; the family lived alternately in Europe and the United States for much of his childhood.

He began his literary career writing for magazines. Having dropped out of Harvard Law School to pursue writing, he associated with the literary set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was a good friend of budding novelist and critic William Dean Howells. In 1864 James’s first published piece of fiction, the story “A Tragedy of Error,” appeared in
Continental Monthly.
He also wrote reviews and articles for
Atlantic Monthly
The Nation.
He frequently traveled to Europe and in 1876 settled permanently in London.

James is often cited as one of literature’s great stylists; it has been said that his writing surrounds a subject and illuminates it with a flickering light, rather than pinning it down; according to Virginia Woolf in her diaries, he spoke in the same way. His style became more and more indirect as he moved from his early period, when he produced novels that considered the differences between American and European culture and character—
Hudson (1876),
The American
(1877), The
Daisy Miller
Washington Square
(1881), and
of a Lady
(1881)—to his middle period, when he wrote two novels about social reformers and revolutionaries,
The Bostonians
The Princess Casamassima,
both in 1886, as well as the novellas
The Aspern Papers
(1888) and
The Turn of the Screw

In 1898 James retreated to Lamb House, a mansion he had purchased in Rye, England. There he produced the great works of his final period, in which in complex prose he subtly portrayed his characters’ inner lives:
The Wings of the Dove
The Ambassadors
(1903), and
The Golden Bowl
(1904). He returned to the United States for the last time to supervise production of a twenty-six-volume edition of his most important fictional works that was published between 1907 and 1917.
The American Scene
(1907), an account of his last journey to America, is highly critical of his native land. He became a British citizen in 1915. Shortly after receiving the Order of Merit, Henry James died, on February 28, 1916, leaving behind a prodigious body of work: twenty completed novels, 112 stories, and twelve plays, as well as voluminous travel writing and literary journalism and criticism.

The World of Henry James and
The Bostonians


 William James, Henry’s grandfather, emigrates to the United States from Ireland. 
 Henry James, Sr., the author’s father, is born. 
 William James dies, leaving a $3 million estate to his twelve children. 
 Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes his essay “Nature,” setting forth the main principles of Transcendentalism. 
 William Dean Howells is born; he will be James’s colleague, an important editor, and a founder of American “realism.” 
 Henry James, Sr., marries Mary Robertson Walsh of New York City. 
 William, the eldest child of Henry, Sr., and Mary James, is born. 
 On April 15, Henry James, Jr., is born at 21 Washington Place, in New York City, around the corner from his grand-mother. In October the James family relocates to Europe. 
 The family returns to New York City. 
 Henry’s brother Garth Wilkinson (“Wilky”) James is born. 
 Another brother, Robertson (“Bob”) James, is born. 
 Alice James is born (d. 1892). 
 The social circle Henry, Sr., inhabits comprises philosophers and writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry, Jr., is educated privately in the United States and Europe. His exposure to the Old World during his formative years establishes in him a life-long preference for Europe over America. 
 Phillips The
Atlantic Monthly 
is founded by Moses Dresser Phillips and Francis H. Underwood. Early contributors include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
 James Russell Lowell (the magazine’s first editor), and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In coming years Henry James, Jr., will be a frequent contributor. 
 In October Henry, Sr., takes his family to Geneva. 
 The family returns to America in September and settles in Newport, Rhode Island. 
 The American Civil War begins. 
 Henry James, Jr., enrolls at Harvard Law School but drops out after a year to pursue a writing career. He becomes friendly with writer William Dean Howells. 
 In February James publishes his first piece of fiction, the story “A Tragedy of Error,” in the
Continental Monthly. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne dies.
 James begins to write reviews for
The Nation, 
a new liberal weekly. The American Civil War ends.
 The first permanent transatlantic telegraph cable links Europe and America, vastly increasing the speed of information transmittal. 
 In England James meets George Eliot and writes reviews of her works, including
Romola, Middlemarch,
Daniel Deronda,
which are published in the
Atlantic Monthly
and the Galaxy, a literary journal. Mark Twain publishes the best-selling travel book
The Innocents Abroad, 
based on letters he had written while journeying by steamship to Europe and the Holy Land; it treats hallowed Old World landmarks with irreverence and parodies the manners and mores of Europeans and Americans.
 James’s cousin Mary (“Minny”) Temple dies in March, and the author, devastated, moves back to New York. His social opportunities are abundant; he spends time at Emerson’s house in Concord, Massachusetts, and meets Henry Adams, who has just been appointed editor of the
North American Review. 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City.
 James publishes his first novel,
Watch and Ward,
in installments in the
it introduces what will be a prominent Jamesian theme: the development of a young girl into womanhood.
 Assigned to write a travel series for the
James sails to Liverpool and spends time in Europe. Susan B. Anthony casts a vote in the presidential election in Rochester, New York, and is arrested.
 Financial panic grips New York with the failure of Jay Cooke and Company, the nation’s preeminent investment bank. After a ten-year economic boom, the United States enters its worst depression to date, although New York continues its prodigious growth. 
 James publishes in the
Atlantic Monthly
the novel
Roderick Hudson,
about an American sculptor in Rome and his struggle to reconcile art and passion. During his early period (also called his international period), he compares the people and cultures of the United States and Europe, focusing especially on the differences. While living in Paris, James associates with the writers Gustave Flaubert and Emile Zola, as well as Russian expatriate authors, including the novelist Ivan Turgenev. He works on his novel
The American, 
about a self-made American millionaire who tries to marry the daughter of French aristocrats.
Roderick Hudson 
is published in book form. Impatient with America’s foreign policy and disaffected with the United States in general, James joins other expatriates in London and settles there permanently. Throughout the rest of the 1870s he associates with many leading English writers and thinkers and becomes an important presence on the Anglo-American literary scene.
The American
is published in book form. James is friendly with Alfred Tennyson, William Gladstone, and Robert Browning. While in Rome, James hears about an American “child of nature and of freedom” who consorted with a “good-looking Roman, of vague identity.” James is immediately inspired to turn this story into a novel,
Daisy Miller. 
 James publishes the short novel
The Europeans. 
The Macmillan Publishing Company of London asks him to write a biography of either Washington Irving or Nathaniel Hawthorne.
 James publishes
Daisy Miller, 
about a young American
 woman in Rome, in book form. He signs a contract for the British copyright on
which is published in the English Men of Letters series in London.
 1880- The focus of James’s writing shifts to social and psychological drama.
Washington Square
is serialized in
Cornhill Magazine
(1880) and released in book form (1881); the novel concerns a young American woman whose father rejects the man she wants to marry.
The Portrait of a
Lady is published in
Macmillan’s Magazine
and the
Atlantic Monthly 
(1880-1881), and in book form (1881); this brilliant novel depicts a young American woman who out of a kind of generosity marries the wrong man. James vows “never again to return” to New York, in a fit of disdain over the way the city’s “oppressive” economic growth has lowered the quality of life.
 James travels to Washington, D.C., where he briefly meets Oscar Wilde. 
 James publishes the first novels of his middle period:
The Bostonians,
the story of a struggle between a southern conservative and an embittered suffragist, and
The Princess Casamassima, 
an exploration of the personal dangers involved in taking up anarchism and revolution.
 James publishes the short novel
The Aspern Papers, 
about a man who woos the custodian of letters by a poet he idolizes.
 Psychologically and financially depressed by the failure of
The Bostonians, 
James shifts his focus to playwriting for the next six years.
 He publishes
The Tragic Muse,
about art and theater in London and Paris. His brother William publishes his ground-breaking and influential
Principles of Psychology, 
in which pragmatism and “radical empiricism” are key elements.
 James’s dramatization of
The American 
fares moderately well.
 After a life beset by illness, Alice James dies in England, with Henry at her side. 
 James’s first dramatic work written as such,
Guy Domville, 
is booed by the opening-night audience and receives mostly negative reviews, though George Bernard Shaw praises it.
 After little success with playwriting, James returns to writing fiction. The United States increases its involvement in a conflict between Spain and Cuba, which wants independence from Spanish rule. James opposes this involvement, calling it “none of our business.” 
 He publishes
What Maisie Knew, 
the story of a preadolescent girl who must choose between her parents and a governess.
 James publishes the ghost story
The Turn of the Screw. 
He purchases Lamb House, in Rye, England, where he will write his last novels and letters. The Spanish-American War takes place.
 During the final stage of his writing career, James’s style becomes increasingly complex and convoluted. Over the next few years, he produces what are often considered his greatest works. 
 He publishes
The Wings of the Dove, 
about a group of people who scheme to inherit a dying woman’s fortune.
The Ambassadors, 
about an American suspicious of European ways who is won over by life in Paris, is published, as is “The Beast in the Jungle,” a story of a man who believes he is intended for something remarkable. In London, James meets Edith Wharton.
 His novel of adultery
The Golden Bowl 
is published. He travels to the United States to oversee the production of a revised collection of his most important works of fiction.
 James publishes
The American Scene,
his observations on what America has become. Publication of the twenty-six volumes of the revised fiction collection,
The Novels and Tales of Henry James, 
begins; it will continue until 1917.
 James publishes the story “The Jolly Corner,” an oblique commentary on the America he has left behind. 
 In January James becomes very ill. He is nursed by his brother William and William’s wife, Alice, and the three return to North America. William, also ill, dies shortly thereafter. James visits New York, where he receives psychiatric care. 
 1911 1 
 In August he returns to England. 
 James begins work on two novels,
The Ivory Tower
The Sense of the Past, 
which he will not complete before his death.
 James’s health deteriorates. He becomes a British subject. 
 On New Year’s Day he receives the Order of Merit. On February 28 Henry James dies. His ashes are taken to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to be buried in American soil, near his brother William. 
Ivory Tower
The Sense of the Past 
are published in their unfinished state.
BOOK: The Bostonians
4.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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